The root of 3
Sunday 29 June 1997
A thoroughly regal plant, it carries itself with great dignity and bearing and, though best known for its flowers, it makes a foliage plant as dramatic as the Hostas (and less prone to slug damage). It has large unbroken, arrow-shaped, wavy-edged leaves which reach well over a foot long and have a fine, curling point. They are glossy, dark-green and held on clumps of strong, fleshy stems 3ft high. The flowers that rise above this foilage in summer are elegant, striking and strange. A central, finger-like, creamy- yellow spike surrounded by a smooth, creamy-white cloak that fades imperceptibly to green where it meets the flower stem.
The Arum's favoured home is the boggy water's edge. But how many of us have a lake in our gardens? Fortunately, they are also happy in moist and well-fed borders, in pots or submerged in the pond. They like sun or light shade. In the mildest gardens, their handsome foliage remains evergreen, otherwise they disappear below ground in winter. Cover the crowns well with a thick mulch to keep out frost.
The Ostrich feather or Shuttlecock fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, is completely hardy. It likes moisture, light shade and rich soil and has an elegance to match that of the Arum lily. The difference in foliage could not be greater, its finely divided, light-green fronds a marked contrast to the solid, dark green Arum leaves. True to its name, this fern arranges its fronds in the form of a shuttlecock. In the centre of the circle it produces a yearly crop of brown, felty, seed-bearing fronds slightly shorter than the surrounding foliage. In summer, they are not very obvious but as the encircling fronds die away at the year end, they are left to stand alone through the winter.
Finally, at ground level, plant the very ordinary Dead nettle, Lamium maculatum f. album, to interweave with its companions. Its leaves have silver-white variegations and it bears small, lipped, pure white flowers. Its carpet-forming vigour is its virtue and its vice, so every now and then you may have to keep its spread in check.
John the Gardener
Life & Style blogs
Charlie Charlie Challenge: everyone on the internet thinks it’s a marketing stunt, but it probably isn’t
Not brushing your teeth can lead to dementia and heart disease
Yves Saint Laurent ad banned for featuring 'unhealthily underweight' model
Insomnia could be cured with one simple therapy session, new study claims
What do the emojis on Snapchat mean?
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers
- 1 California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
- 2 Amber Peat: Body found in search for missing 13-year-old who left house after argument with her parents
- 3 School kitchen manager 'fired from Colorado school for giving hungry students free lunches'
- 4 Gay teenager 'forced to have sex with his own mother' to 'cure' his homosexuality, campaigners in India say
- 5 Charles Kennedy 'had better judgement drunk than many sober politicians' says Ian Hislop
£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...
£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...